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The rise of WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks, like other US Internet-based companies, was one of the most talked about companies in the world until 2010, when it was leaked to WikiLeaks.

The study of privacy, security and freedom of expression will not be complete without a study of Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks movement he started, both of which have had an impact on these issues over the past decade. Not only this, but also global issues like media, global economy and politics, terrorism are covered by this movement. Although WikiLeaks’ platform has been used extensively by whistleblowers to expose corruption and misconduct around the world, Assange and WikiLeaks have paid a heavy price.

WikiLeaks was not founded for the reasons it is known around the world today. The first decade of the 21st century was the heyday of Internet technology and various platforms were emerging on the Internet to bring together geographically dispersed but like-minded people to do some creative work. Social media (Facebook 2004 and Twitter 2006) was started. Crowdsourcing, like Wikipedia, was creating efficient alternatives to create large amounts of text. In such an environment, when Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006, he had in mind to build a platform for citizen journalism on the Internet with the participation of citizens on the lines of Wikipedia.

Assange was of the opinion that this platform would be useful for reading issues that are important from the point of view of the citizens and are ignored by the mainstream media for economic, social or political reasons. Assange had deliberately used the word ‘wiki’ in naming the platform as it was expected that the news and other information related to the platform would be provided by the citizens and the authenticity of the news would be verified by the citizens.

But in the case of WikiLeaks, Assange’s above expectations did not materialize. On the one hand, WikiLeaks has started leaking confidential information, but there has not been enough response from citizens to verify that information. However, in many cases, the information was so important that Assange took on the responsibility of verifying it and modifying it as needed to make it public on his platform, and in a short time WikiLeaks itself became a mainstream media organization. Assange was now the founder of WikiLeaks, but also the responsibility of journalist and editor-in-chief.

Assange was accused of ignoring the issues of citizens, especially in underdeveloped countries, as well as cases of government corruption, or of not getting to the root of the issue. After assuming the responsibility of the editor himself, however, Assange decided to destroy the confidential and sensitive cases that came to WikiLeaks. For the next four years, since December 2006 (since Assange became editor-in-chief), WikiLeaks has been a hotbed of gossip; Who also shook the government of an almighty country like America.

There was also a lot of diversity in the topics handled by WikiLeaks. The Huantanamo Bay report was published on WikiLeaks in 2007. The report, for the first time, brought to the world the stories of physical and mental torture inflicted on inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison on the American island of Cuba, in South America. In 2008, WikiLeaks leaked the details of a financial scandal involving a Swiss bank, Julius Bear. That same year, WikiLeaks leaked some confidential e-mails to U.S. Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, exposing some of the Republican Party’s internal feuds. On the same day, in connection with the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, pager messages from various government and military figures were published on WikiLeaks.

From 2006 to 2009, WikiLeaks was steadily gaining traction as a media outlet advocating for freedom of expression on the Internet, and was gaining ground as well as staunch supporters as well as opponents (including governments of some countries). An article published on WikiLeaks in 2010 spread the fame of the organization and Assange all over the world, but WikiLeaks got a new staunch opponent of the ‘American government’!

For the first time that year, Assange aired a 17-minute footage on WikiLeaks called “Collateral Murder” from a US Apache helicopter stationed in Iraq. The thorny video shows some Iraqi citizens talking to newspaper correspondents, and suddenly the helicopter starts firing. Not only are people killed on sight, but so are those who help those injured. This inhumane, heart-wrenching sighting not only exposed the dark side of the US military to the world, but also brought WikiLeaks into the limelight overnight.

Assange began to reveal the secret details of the US-led war in Afghanistan to the world soon after the US side of the war in Iraq was exposed. The United States has not paid much attention to Assange’s actions in recent days, despite a series of anti-US lawsuits since WikiLeaks was founded. However, the US government was furious with Assange and WikiLeaks over its alleged involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

WikiLeaks relied heavily on various US companies, both technically and financially. For example, the WikiLeaks organization runs on Amazon’s cloud servers. Also, WikiLeaks received financial logistics from around the world mainly through the services of US financial services providers (PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, etc.) or through banks (e.g. Bank of America). The U.S. government put pressure on all of these companies to immediately shut down all services provided to WikiLeaks and financially block the organization.

On December 1, 2010, Amazon first removed WikiLeaks from its cloud platform. Just two days later, PayPal cut off financial services to WikiLeaks. On December 7, both Visa and MasterCard stopped accepting payments for WikiLeaks by mortgaging PayPal. On December 18, Bank of America froze all WikiLeaks accounts, while on December 21, Western Union, a currency exchange service provider, refused to accept donations in various international currencies for WikiLeaks. In just the next three weeks, the United States turned WikiLeaks into a cowardly and illegitimate organization, which by November 2010 had been known for exposing corruption at the government level and ensuring the just rights of its citizens. The United States will not remain silent just by discrediting WikiLeaks. The United States has said it is preparing to extradite Assange, accusing him of spying and misusing confidential information.

What led to Assange’s war against the United States? What was Assange’s role in bringing such sensitive information to light? What motivation gave him the strength to stand up against such almighty governments? How important are values ​​such as privacy and freedom of expression to Assange himself, and do Assange’s revelations violate the right to privacy? We will consider all of these in the next article.

The author is an expert in the fields of information and technology, open source, security and privacy, as well as digital transformation.

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